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Budgeting Tips for Future Caregivers

Mar 08, 2019 4 Min Read Heather R. Johnson

Key Takeaways

  • Decide with your parent if and how you will share expenses.
  • Expect and budget for the unexpected; caregiving is full of surprises.
  • Consider not only your parent's current needs, but also what they'll need in the future.


Our parents want to live as independently as possible for as long as possible. However, there may come a day when mom or dad can't go it alone. For some adults, the best solution is to move elderly parents into their home.

Multigenerational living can ensure companionship for your aging parent. You'll also get to know each other in a deeper way.

Before you start packing boxes, you'll need to budget for the many costs associated with caring for an elderly parent—expected and unexpected.

Here are a few suggestions to help you budget for the newest member of your household.


Expect the unexpected

Josh Lamont, a communications consultant based in Menlo Park, California, moved his father in with him in 2014, after his mother died. When Lamont got to his parents' home, in Hawaii, he knew his father could not live alone.

Lamont didn't realize the depth of his parents' financial challenges until he started planning the move. Dad was at risk of losing his home to foreclosure. "Any caregiver needs to be prepared for the unexpected, especially financially," he says. "There are going to be details that, because we're the kid, they may not tell us. Caregivers need to prepare for that."

As you assess costs associated with moving in your loved one, assume expenses will be higher than anticipated. That way, if you discover a surprise unpaid debt or home health need, you'll have some cushion in your budget to accommodate.



Budget for current and future home modifications

To safely accommodate your loved one, you'll need to rearrange your living space at the very minimum. It's likely you'll also need to install some home modifications, such as grab bars in the shower or possibly wheelchair access. You may even decide to convert a garage into an in-law suite or build an addition onto your home.

When budgeting for the move, consider what you'll need to make your entire family comfortable—now and in the future. If mom has a chronic illness, consider how her long-term health will affect her needs.

Lamont spent about three weeks modifying his current home to accommodate his father, who has Parkinson's Disease. During that time, he installed grab bars, an elevated toilet seat, bed rails and other devices.

"I was surprised to learn it cost $200 to have a grab bar installed," says Lamont. In addition to home modifications, he also spent nearly $2,000 for a mattress that allowed his father to get in and out of bed without assistance. "It not only made him more comfortable, but made both of our lives simpler, so it was worth it."


Factor in services—for you and your parent

If mom or dad needs help with one or more activities of daily living (bathing, dressing, eating, using the bathroom, standing or sitting), who will provide that help? Factor that care into your budget. If you're the sole caregiver, will you have to reduce your work hours? Consider any changes in income when compiling your budget.

Caregiving can be emotionally, mentally and physically exhausting. It's important to have time to recharge. Whether it's a day to yourself or a weekend with your spouse, consider budgeting for occasional adult day care or respite care.

Adult day care provides meals, activities, physical therapy and social engagement, all in a professionally managed environment. Typically offered through assisted living communities, adult day care ranges from $25 to $75 per day according to Caring.com. Opens in new window

For overnight days and extended breaks, consider reserving respite care time for your parent. Also offered through assisted living communities, respite care ranges from $75 to $200 per day.


Research all benefits available

Lamont cared for his father for more than a year before he realized dad qualified for Veteran's Affairs benefits, with a monthly stipend of about $3,000 per month. Lamont also learned dad had not applied for survivor's benefits. When he did, that gave him additional supplementary income.

When planning the move, make sure to research federal, state and other benefits available to your parent. You may discover unclaimed benefits that could help cover the costs of care.


Review budget items with your parent

If your parent has the means to pay some of the bills, have a candid talk about those bills prior to the move. Decide how much each of you pays for these and other expenses:

  • Moving costs
  • Storage
  • Rent or mortgage
  • Groceries
  • Utilities


Learn their habits

Before you load the moving van, Lamont suggests spending time with your parent in close quarters to learn their habits. "Spend a week with them in their home, a hotel or an Airbnb before you move them in," he says. "While you're there, care for them and observe all the little things they need and figure out how to handle it. It's worth every penny times ten."

Bringing mom or dad into your family home can be incredibly rewarding for everyone involved. Make the move go more smoothly by budgeting well in advance.


What you can do next

Moving mom or dad in with you isn't the first choice for many parents and adult children. Find out if you're on track to live the life you want in retirement and speak with your parents to see if they need to make financial changes of their own.


Heather R. Johnson writes about finance, small business and healthcare from Oakland, California. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Houston Chronicle, and with major banking and healthcare companies.


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